Contemporary First Peoples Composers

Australia holds one of the oldest living cultures in the world, and First Nations music making is the oldest continuing form of music making.

For the Songs of Home exhibition, Museums of History NSW collaborated with five talented contemporary First Peoples composers to create five unique new compositions. Commissioned and recorded exclusively for the exhibition, these remarkable pieces can be heard in the exhibition and on our website.

The talented composers come from a diverse range of musical backgrounds. Brenda Gifford, Tim Gray, Troy j Russell, Elizabeth Sheppard and Nardi Simpson worked closely with us to create the pieces, which speak directly to the exhibition’s themes of country and dispossession, and to their own personal interpretations of ‘home’.

The collaboration was supported by the Ngarra‑burria First Peoples Composers initiative, a program founded by Darug man, composer and mentor Chris Sainsbury. The songs were performed by musicians from the Royal Australian Navy Band alongside other artists, and were recorded by ABC Classic.

Listen now

Past exhibition

Past exhibition

Songs of Home

Songs of Home tells the little-known story of music played and enjoyed in NSW during the first 70 years of the colony

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Songs of Home

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Songs of home

Soundtrack

Listen to the soundtrack from the past exhibition Songs of home

Oil portrait of Mary Elizabeth Pye (1827-1910), painted c 1845
Songs of home

The surprising legacy of Miss Pye of Parramatta

Visitors to Richmond Villa, head office of the Society of Australian Genealogists in Kent Street, Sydney, may have met the steady gaze of a young woman dressed in the fashion of the early 1840s

Cropped page of printed music.
Songs of home

‘I think of thee’: unlocking a colonial song

The reconstruction of a unique but incomplete copy of a colonial song has allowed us to hear it 170 years after it was composed

White signpost with several signs pointing in different directions.
Songs of home

Jane Austen: at home with music

Jane Austen’s music albums provide a new understanding of the use of music in the author’s work and the importance of music making in the Regency home